Morihei Ueshiba and Admiral Isamu Takeshita by Stanley Pranin

“Admiral Takeshita was not only an admirer of Ueshiba’s superlative martial skills,
but also an enthusiastic practitioner even though already well into middle age.”

One of the fascinating aspects of the study of aikido history is the many important figures from a large-cross section of Japanese society that one encounters. Throughout Morihei Ueshiba’s long life he had close relationships and contact with many extraordinary individuals not only from the world of budo, but also from political, military and financial circles. One person in particular, though largely unknown to practitioners of aikido today, played an essential role in the spread of this art in prewar Japan. His name was Admiral Isamu Takeshita.

Admiral Takeshita is mentioned frequently in conversations with old-timers who knew Morihei Ueshiba during his years in Tokyo before the outbreak of World War II. He was born in Kagoshima in 1869. Takeshita was a member of the Satsuma Clan. In that period the Satsuma were known for producing many naval officers while the Choshu clan provided army officers.

The relationship between Takeshita and Ueshiba began as a result of the introduction of another admiral, Seikyo Asano. Asano was a believer in the Omoto religion (see previous article on Onisaburo Deguchi) and began to practice Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu in Ayabe in 1922. Thoroughly impressed with Ueshiba’s art, Asano recommended him to Takeshita, his collegue at the naval academy in Tokyo. Takeshita journeyed to Ayabe in 1925 to view Ueshiba’s art and left totally convinced that Ueshiba was an exceptional martial artist. Upon Takeshita’s return to Tokyo he presented a glowing recommendation of Ueshiba to retired Admiral Gombei Yamamoto—a two-time former prime minister—and this led to a demonstration before a select group of viewers at Takeshita’s residence. Henceforth, the admiral played an active role in promoting Ueshiba’s activities among the elite of Japanese society. This resulted in many military officers, government officials and wealthy persons becoming devotees of Ueshiba-style Jujutsu. Kenji Tomiki who later created a competitive form of aikido was also introduced to Ueshiba by Takeshita around 1925.

Admiral Takeshita was not only an admirer of Ueshiba’s superlative martial skills, but also an enthusiastic practitioner even though already well into middle age. He assiduously attended practices for many years and for a time Ueshiba taught at Takeshita’s home. Moreover, the admiral encountered Ueshiba’s teacher Sokaku Takeda of Daito-ryu Jujutsu fame on several occasions. Takeshita quite probably was taught by Takeda although his name and seal do not not appear in any of the extant Daito-ryu enrollment books (eimeiroku). We know, for example, that Takeshita observed Takeda’s seminar conducted at the Ueshiba dojo in 1931. Further, Sokaku’s son and present Daito-ryu Soke, Tokimune Takeda, reports that Admiral Takeshita once authored a magazine article entitled “The Story of the Bravery of Sokaku Takeda.” Unfortunately, this article seems not to have survived.


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